The bloodshed in Caracas over the past 12 days brings to mind the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, where President Obama greeted Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez with a huge grin and a warm handshake. A couple of months later the State Department attempted to force Honduras to reinstall pro-Chávez president Manuel Zelaya, who had been deposed for violating the constitution.
Brows were knitted throughout the Americas. Why did the U.S. president favor the Venezuelan dictator, protégé of Fidel Castro, over Honduras, which still had a rule of law, press freedom and pluralism?
Fast forward to last Wednesday, after four peaceful student-protesters had been confirmed as having been killed by the government's armed minions. Mr. Obama took notice, pronouncing the brutality "unacceptable." That must have been comforting to hear amid the gun shots and pummeling on the streets of Caracas.
That same night the government of Nicolás Maduro —Chávez's handpicked successor—unleashed a wave of terror across the country. According to Venezuelan blogs and Twitter posts, the National Guard and police went on a tear, firing their weapons indiscriminately, beating civilians, raiding suspected student hide-outs, destroying private property and launching tear-gas canisters. Civilian militia on motor bikes added to the mayhem. The reports came from Valencia, Mérida, San Cristóbal, Maracaibo, Puerto Ordaz and elsewhere, as well as the capital.
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Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes The Americas column for the Wall Street Journal.